Residential SW Washington

Solar workforce diversity report findings released

A man installing solar panels on a metal roofThe Solar Foundation released its Oregon and Washington Solar Workforce Diversity Report this month. The report analyzes the workforce pipeline for the solar industry in the Pacific Northwest, specifically the practices surrounding diversity and inclusion, hiring and training.

With support from Energy Trust and the NW Energy Coalition, The Solar Foundation conducted 50 interviews with solar companies, industry leaders, training providers and nonprofits who work in the energy and solar industry.

“Oregon and Washington face a challenge shared by states across the nation: How do we make the solar workforce more inclusive and representative for women, people of color, the LGBTQ community and veterans?” said Andrea Luecke, president and executive director at The Solar Foundation. “By meeting this challenge, solar companies can expand the pipeline of skilled workers while also making the industry more innovative and profitable.”

Key findings from the report include:

  • Solar companies acknowledge the importance of workforce diversity and are seeking to expand their workforce diversity and inclusion efforts. However, many say they do not know where to start or do not have the resources to take necessary steps.
  • 59 percent of companies rely on word-of-mouth as a recruiting technique, which reinforces existing workforce demographics and often excludes underrepresented populations.
  • 69 percent of the companies interviewed do not formally track employee gender, sexual orientation, ethnic and racial diversity.
  • Most of the companies interviewed struggle to find licensed electricians and Limited Renewable Energy Technicians (LRTs). Solar contractors should actively participate in the training of LRT and electrical apprentices to ensure a robust pipeline of licensed workers is available.
  • The solar industry in Oregon and Washington has opportunities for rapid advancement. New hires who are unlicensed installers have the potential to be promoted to a mid-level position within one year or less, resulting in a 17 percent pay raise. For entry-level licensed installers, the expected pay raise after promotion is 28 percent.

The findings from this report will inform Energy Trust’s support for the next generation of solar workers through collaborations with Oregon Solar Energy Industries AssociationConstructing Hope and Oregon Tradeswomen.

For more information, read the full Oregon and Washington Solar Workforce Diversity Report including recommendations for the industry to improve the effectiveness of workforce development practices.

For a national assessment, read the U.S. Solar Industry Diversity Study 2019 released in May 2019 by The Solar Foundation and the Solar Energy Industries Association. The report looks at challenges to diversity and inclusion on the national level and identifies best practices to move the industry forward.